DENVER–The relatives of those killed in the Aurora Century 16 shooting are probably the last people who would ever want to see a movie there after the complex reopens in two weeks.
Which may explain why Cinemark’s recent invitation to the victims’ families to attend a reopening ceremony and then catch a free flick has backfired so disastrously.
Relatives representing nine of the 12 people killed in the July 20 massacre fired off an outraged letter Wednesday to Cinemark rejecting the offer and vowing to launch a boycott of the theater complex.
“After reading our response to your ridiculously offensive invitation, you now know why we will not be attending your reopening celebration and will be using every social media tool at our disposal to ask the other victims to ask their friends and family to honor us by boycotting the killing field of our children,” said the letter from “the Families of the Aurora Cinemark Theatre Massacre.”
Cinemark USA, based in Plano, Texas, had no immediate comment on the letter.
The company had extended an invitation through the Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance to attending a “special evening of remembrance” at 5 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 17, at the newly renovated theater complex.
The company also offered victims’ family members free tickets to a movie that evening. In the letter, the relatives called it a “disgusting offer.”
“Our family members will never be on this earth with us again and a movie ticket and some token words from people who didn’t care enough to reach out to us, nor respond when we reached out to them to talk, is appalling,” said the letter, signed by 15 relatives.
The theater has been closed since the shooting, which left 12 dead and 70 injured, during the midnight premiere of the latest Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises.”
Tension between the victims’ families and the theater owner has been palpable from the start. As many as a dozen lawsuits have been filed against Cinemark alleging that the company failed to provide adequate security, while attorneys for the theater have insisted that the horrific attack could not have been foreseen.
In the letter, family members say Cinemark rejected their repeated requests to have a discussion without attorneys.
“Instead, we get invited to attend a ‘special evening of remembrance’ at the very theater where our loved ones lay dead on the floor for over 15 hours,” said the letter.
At the same time, a survey conducted by the city of Aurora found strong community support for reopening the theater. A statement released Dec. 5 by Cinemark said that Gov. John Hickenlooper and Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan plan to attend the reopening.
The company has spent months overhauling the complex. Theater nine, the site of the carnage, has been replaced with a floor-to-ceiling XD screen.
Whether to renovate or raze the site of a mass shooting is a sensitive question, one that Coloradans were forced to confront after the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. In that case, the school reopened but replaced the library, where most of the murders occurred, with an open-air atrium.
Meanwhile, the accused theater gunman, James Eagan Holmes, appeared Wednesday in Arapahoe County District Court for a procedural hearing. Prosecutors are scheduled to conduct a weeklong preliminary hearing starting Monday outlining the evidence in the case.
Afterward, District Court Judge William B. Sylvester will decide whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed.
Holmes, charged with multiple counts of first-degree and attempted murder, has not yet entered a plea. His attorneys are expected to argue that he suffers from mental illness.